Lawyers are obliged under the WWFT, the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Prevention) Act, in the case of specific specified services, to identify a client, verify the client’s identity and report any unusual transactions carried out or intended to be carried out in the context of those services to the Disclosure Office for Unusual Transactions (FIU).
The Wwft applies to lawyers and law firms in so far as they independently provide independent professional or business advice or assistance:
- the purchase or sale of registered property;
- managing money, securities, coins, bills, precious metals, precious stones or other valuables;
- setting up or managing companies, legal entities or similar bodies as referred to in Section 2(1)(b) of the General Tax Act;
- the buying or selling of shares in, or the buying or selling or taking over, in whole or in part, of enterprises, companies, legal entities or similar bodies as referred to in article 2, first paragraph, letter b of the General Tax Act;
- activities in the field of taxation that are comparable to the activities of tax consultants; or
- the establishment of a right of mortgage on a registered property.
The Wwft does not apply to attorneys and law firms insofar as they carry out activities for a client relating to the first determination of his legal position, his representation and defence in court, giving advice before, during and after legal proceedings or giving advice on instituting or avoiding legal proceedings. This exemption also applies if the services concern one of the aforementioned services.
In addition, pursuant to the Regulation on the Legal Profession (Voda), attorneys at law are obliged, if possible upon acceptance of the assignment, to verify the identity of the client and, where applicable, also the identity of the intermediary who provides the assignment on behalf of the client.
Identification, UBO declaration and PEP declaration
Knoops’ advocaten carefully complies with the Wwft and the Ordinance on the legal profession. This means that before starting work you will be asked to identify yourself by means of a valid identity document. When accepting the assignment, the attorney at law will also check whether there are reasonable indications that the assignment serves to prepare, support or shield illegal activities.
In the case of a service that is subject to the Wwft, we carry out a client investigation. In that context, you may be asked to submit a statement in which it is made clear which natural persons are the ultimate stakeholders in the company (UBO statement). In addition, you may be asked whether the directors or the UBO of the company are politically prominent persons (PEP declaration).
Obligation to report unusual transactions
In the case of a service subject to the Wwft, the attorneys are obliged to report unusual transactions to the FIU without delay. This includes transactions by or on behalf of a person or legal entity that is domiciled or has its registered office in a state that has been designated in delegated acts of the European Commission pursuant to Article 9 of the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive as having a higher risk of money laundering or terrorist financing. You may also consider transactions for an amount of €10,000.00 or more, paid to or through the institution in cash, bearer cheques, a prepaid payment instrument (prepaid card) or similar means of payment. Finally, these may be transactions in which Knoops’ advocaten have reason to assume that they may be related to money laundering or the financing of terrorism. Knoops’ advocaten never accept cash payments for its own services.
If we are obliged to report an unusual transaction, we are bound to keep it confidential, including towards the client. In other words, we may not inform you of the fact that a report has been made.
We are also obliged to report an unusual transaction if the client investigation has led us to refrain from providing our services.